Some Clear Thinking about Energy Efficiency in Buildings

There are four basic questions that need to be answered before we can make any meaningful change in energy efficiency in buildings.

1) What is the building’ s energy consumption?
2) Who is consuming energy?
3) How is energy being consumed?
4) What can be done to change building performance, without affecting productivity or comfort?

The first question is generally relatively easy to answer. The second and third questions often far more difficult. The fourth question generally requires specialized expertise. It’s difficult to systematically reduce energy consumption in one or more buildings without answering all of these questions correctly.

Energy consumption is simply a performance indicator, useful as a yardstick to measure whether building management activities have resulted in more, or less, energy consumption. Despite what many in the industry will tell you, monthly utility bill data, for a year or more, is sufficient.

People use energy in order to improve their comfort, convenience or productivity. We simply can’t optimize building performance without understanding who is using energy in buildings, and how this consumption is meeting people’s needs.

Our building structures and equipment directly or indirectly consume energy to drive motors, heat or move air or liquids, and provide lighting for building occupants. Understanding building assets and systems, and how this equipment is operated and maintained is crucial to understanding how building technology can be changed for improved building performance.

Once you understand how energy is consumed in buildings you need to find ways to change it, and change is a people problem.